News / Europe

Pentagon: Russian Aircraft Enter Ukraine's Airspace Several Times

Pro-Russian armed militants prepare to inspect a truck near Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 25, 2014.
Pro-Russian armed militants prepare to inspect a truck near Slovyansk, eastern Ukraine, April 25, 2014.
VOA News
U.S. military officials said Russian aircraft flew into Ukrainian airspace several times Friday.

A Pentagon spokesman called on Moscow "to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation." The official gave no details on where the incursions took place or the goal of the action.

The flights come as Russia increases military exercises along the Ukrainian border. On Thursday, the top U.S. military officer Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, spoke with his Russian counterpart.  

Also Friday, pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine detained a team of international military observers. The separatists seized a bus carrying at least 13 people from the Vienna-based Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE] near the town of Slovyansk.

The town's self-declared mayor, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, said the group was detained because a Ukrainian military official was traveling with them.

"The sign OSCE does not mean protection for an officer of the [army] General Headquarters. We found an employee of the army headquarters. After an investigation we will decide what we are to do," said Ponomarev.

The OSCE wrote on Twitter that it had lost contact with the German-led monitoring team.

The United States and the European Union are expected on Monday to impose new sanctions on Russian individuals, sources said, as the Ukraine crisis escalated with armed pro-Russia separatists seizing a bus carrying international mediators.

The U.S. State Department is condemning the reported abduction of an international observer team and its Ukrainian escorts by armed gunmen in the town of Slovyansk.

"If true, we strongly condemn this action and call for their immediate release," said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. "Over the past week, we've unfortunately seen a rapid escalation in hostage takings by pro-Russian separatists. We condemn this repressive and cowardly tactic and call for the release of all hostages."

Pro-Russian separatists say the group was detained because a Ukrainian military official was traveling with them. 

The interior ministry in Kyiv said the detained group includes seven OSCE representatives and five members of the Ukrainian armed forces who were accompanying them.

On his Twitter account, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called for the group's immediate release: "Extremely concerned with OSCE inspectors being abducted in Eastern Ukraine. Including one Swede. They must be released immediately."
  • A Ukrainian police officer stands guard at a checkpoint that was attacked by unknown men outside the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, April 25, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian armed man smokes as he guards near the mayor's office in Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 25, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian soldier sits atop of his armored vehicle at a check point near the village of Artemiovska, near Slovyansk, Ukraine, April 24, 2014.
  • Ukrainian security force officers are deployed at a checkpoint set on fire and left by pro-Russian separatists near Slovyansk, April 24, 2014.
  • A Pro-Russian supporter walks at the seized office of the SBU state security service in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, April 24, 2014.
  • Municipal workers take a break from taking down barricades in central Kyiv, April 23, 2014.
  • Members of Maidan self-defense forces march along the street in central Kyiv, April 23, 2014.
  • Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko speaks during a briefing in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine April 24, 2014.
  • People carry the coffin of local politician Volodymyr Rybak, allegedly tortured and killed by pro-Russia separatists, during his funeral in the village of Horlivka, in eastern Ukraine, April 24, 2014.
  • People carry coffins containing the bodies of men killed in a gunfight on April 20, during a funeral ceremony in Slovyansk, April 22, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian armed man stands guard outside a regional government building seized by the pro-Russians, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, April 22, 2014.

Meantime, a leading Russian military leader is voicing concern over the situation in  southeastern Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported.

In a telephone call, Russian Gen. Valery Gerasimov told U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey that Ukraine has a "substantial group of forces" near the Russian border, which includes some troops intent on conducting sabotage.

Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Russia separatists Thursday during an effort to regain control of rebel-held areas.

'Positive steps'

President Barack Obama discussed the Ukraine crisis Friday in a telephone call with French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The White House said in a statement that the four leaders agreed Ukraine had taken "positive steps" to uphold the four-party deal it signed in Geneva last week to de-escalate tensions, while Russia had "not reciprocated."

According to the White House, Obama said the United States is prepared to impose targeted sanctions to respond to Russia's latest actions, and all four leaders agreed to closely coordinate additional steps to impose costs on Russia.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Friday that the next round of sanctions against Moscow will put more pain on the Russian economy.

"We are working with our international partners to make sure  that when we do it, we do it in an effective way,'' Lew said on Marketplace, a radio show produced by American Public Media. 

The development follows an accusation earlier Friday by Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk that Russia wants to occupy Ukraine "militarily and politically," as both Kyiv and Moscow mass troops close to their mutual border.

Yatsenyuk warned Friday that Russia's actions could lead to a wider military conflict in Europe. He told an interim Cabinet meeting that Moscow "wants to start World War III."

His comments came amid reports of fresh violence in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian militants continue to occupy government buildings in around a dozen cities.

A Ukrainian military helicopter exploded Friday on the tarmac of a base near the eastern city of Kramatorsk. Some Ukrainian officials said the explosion was the result of a rocket-propelled grenade fired by pro-Russian militants, while others said it was caused by a sniper who fired a single shot into a fuel tank.

Ukrainian officials said Friday that they aimed to "blockade" the rebel-held city of Slovyansk as part of an "anti-terrorist" operation in eastern Ukraine.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday denounced Kyiv's security operation to clear the pro-Russian militants, calling it a "bloody crime."

Russia has reportedly dramatically increased the number of troops deployed along its border with Ukraine. A Ukrainian diplomat at the United Nations told VOA that Moscow has doubled its military presence on the border to about 80,000 troops.

Lavrov, for his part, blamed the West for raising tensions, saying Friday that the pro-Russian militants would only lay down their weapons if the Ukrainian government first clears out its own protesters in the capital.

Credit rating downgrade

Underscoring the effect that wider sanctions could have on Russia's economy, credit agency Standard and Poor's cut Russia's credit rating to BBB-. The agency said it is concerned about increased capital outflows from Russia, and said the rating could be cut further if sanctions are tightened.

Washington has accused Moscow of failing to uphold the four-party deal it signed last week calling for all parties in Ukraine to lay down their weapons and vacate public buildings. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Moscow has not taken "a single step" to de-escalate tensions since the deal was signed in Geneva. 

Odessa clash
Seven people were injured overnight at a pro-Ukrainian checkpoint near the Black Sea port of Odessa when an explosive device blew up, police said on Friday.
Residents in the town have built several such checkpoints near the town aimed at stopping pro-Russian separatists entering from Moldova's breakaway territory of Transdniestria.
Interfax news agency quoted witnesses as saying a bomb was thrown at the checkpoint from a passing car, though this was not confirmed by police.
Transdniestria, home to Russian peacekeepers and Russian troops guarding a Soviet-era arms stock, declared independence in the early 1990s.
NATO warned last month of a possible Russian military grab for Transdniestria following its annexation of Crimea.
Ukrainian forces killed up to five pro-Moscow rebels on Thursday as they closed in on the separatists' military stronghold in the east, and Russia launched army exercises near the border in response, raising fears its troops would invade.
The Ukrainian offensive amounts to the first time Kyiv's troops have used lethal force to recapture territory from rebels who have seized swathes of eastern Ukraine since April 6 and proclaimed an independent “People's Republic of Donetsk”.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters

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Comments page of 2
by: Koryagin Anton from: Russia, Penza town
May 18, 2014 8:56 AM
The bad news is that you do not have Americans ears, and hearts that could show you the truth of Russian and many other nationalities , who do not need a war! And even worse , that you my heart and ears and eyes - give those who acknowledge you from the TV screen says that it is more convenient , as it is profitable to submit events !
Believe your heart and you will be where you will be fine .
God willing , we will have their problems , problems which reasonable people can resolve without war .
And for those who can not wait to start a war ( kill ) - they should be given the answer is no ! Because otherwise you ( we ) will be responsible for the sins of others .

by: Anonymous
April 26, 2014 3:12 PM
Putins recent acts of aggression are actual enemies of the world... Putins acts to prolong the Syrian war, against the will of the Syrian people, and now Ukraine, are disgusting. Putin should be telling these Pro-Russians to behave while in Ukraine under Ukrainian jurisdiction, and laws, and not to expect to cause trouble and then have Russia come in. Putin should be saying to those people that if they do not like Ukrainian laws to leave and possibly move back to Russia... Secondly Putin could of helped end the Syrian war a long long time ago and won the hearts of the Syrian people by telling "Assad" to step down and do what is right for the people. Instead he choose to prolong the war and arm the assad regime. Assad has killed more civilians than anyone in Syria. With the aid of putins weaponry most that die in Syria die with Russian bullets.

It is time the Russian people step up to Putin and tell him he is not promoting peace, instead instability.

Had Putin did what was right for the people of Syria he would of saved several tens of thousands of civilian lives. The International community all voted to help the innocent civilians, however Putin opposed.

Disgusting the portrait Putin portrays to the world, why would anyone want him to lead their country? A disgrace on the world stage. Most Russians I know do not like him as the leader of Russia.

by: kahetiio from: mohawk territory
April 26, 2014 2:56 PM
For me i dont get where america gets the ok to tell a different country that it cant invade a country when in reality thats all the states do afghanistan iraq u name them the states r sure to b in them on way or another. Putin might or might not be in on this issue wut ever the outcome i got my money on putin n russia neday

by: Trinh Chuong from: Canada
April 26, 2014 1:15 PM
It will not be a surprised if Moscow denied that their planes are not entering the Ukraine air space BUT that was from the "local militants".... Hope that Russia will cover the planes with black masks as they do with their troops when evade Crimea and so now the eastern Ukraine. A new "old tactic" of communists.
Also please remark that Geneva convention never works with communist in the past (1954, 1973 as for Vietnam war) is waste and useless...Never trust anything Russia says let look at what they have done...

by: Nick from: brazil
April 26, 2014 9:49 AM
when the US supports rebels working with one talks abt sanctioning them.even after irak''there was no nid 2invade'' no sanctioning or condemnation from the world leaders took place....but when putin supports ethnic russian who are against an illegal goverment 'us pupets' looking at weakning russian influence...Puttin is a bad guy supporting terrorists...and some how its the USA problem to punish russia...
I think putin has the right to invade ukraine..and give ukrainians a chance to choose their true leader who will accept ukrainian leaving with ethnic russians and leave in peace with their they have been... the troubke makers must go create troubles with mexico and canada..leave europe in Peace...

by: sudeep from: India
April 26, 2014 1:07 AM
If Russia invades eastern Ukraine , US and NATO would just impose sanctions .Does West have guts to have FACE OFF with powerful and rising Russia. Answer is NO.
Under Putin's rule Russia's economy has swelled four times . I must say people in India does not have any negative notions about him.
Putin and Russia have been negatively painted only in WEST.

by: john from: v
April 25, 2014 11:59 PM
Putin is so bad. Assad crushed his people , he sent troops to protect assad. Now , Kiev crushed terrorism in its country . he said this is brutal and grave mistake. the world should voice to stop this. very ridiculous
In Response

by: ivan from: russia
April 26, 2014 1:39 AM
Russian-speaking ukranians are terrorists ? And this US-set govt apply weapon against ukranians who don't like them appeling to the democracy ? but who are you then ?

by: Wilf Tarquin from: Rockall
April 25, 2014 3:01 PM
It's hard to see what Russia hope to gain from this belligerence. Russia's deception that it isn't behind the unrest wouldn't fool a small child, and Luhansk and Donetsk do not have any natural resources worth stealing (unlike Crimea, which has huge untapped gas fields).
Presumably Putin hope to get limited independence for the easternmost provinces of Ukraine, so he can use them to block any moves Ukraine makes to join EU/NATO.

by: jack from: wa
April 25, 2014 2:52 PM
How much is to much of pro and Russian lying ?
Just like Serbia 1990-….

by: NN
April 25, 2014 1:59 PM
"Yatsenyuk warned Friday that Russia's actions could lead to a wider military conflict in Europe. He told an interim Cabinet meeting that Moscow "wants to start World War III." - Yatsenyuk is absolutely right, for history shows that it is much easier to start war than to end it:
In Response

by: Иван Венке
April 26, 2014 1:49 AM
who is Yatenuk and what does he do in Rada ? Is that self-imposed guy who decide that he could bark on Russia having NATO guys as his security guarant ? Ukranians had never elected him! It's the same as if you listen to me or Darth Vader as ukranian pres. ))))))) do you have reason, american?
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